Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Handkerchief and Sword.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Handkerchief and Sword.
With handkerchief in one hand and sword in the other. Pretending to be sorry at a calamity, but prepared to make capital out of it.   1
        “Abbé George … . mentions in [a letter] that ‘Maria Theresa stands with the handkerchief in one hand, weeping for the woes of Poland, but with the sword in the other hand, ready to cut Poland in sections, and take her share.’”—Carlyle: The Diamond Necklace, chap. iv.



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